For the first time in 13 seasons, Washington will start the 2013-14 campaign with two teenagers on its roster. Generally speaking, a player’s age on Feb. 1 of the NHL season is considered to be his age for that season. With that in mind, the last time the Caps started a season with two teenagers on the opening night roster was in 2000-01.
Caps coach Adam Oates was a member of that 96-point Washington team, and center Kris Beech and defenseman Jakub Cutta were the two kids who cracked the opening night roster. Neither stuck for long, Beech got into four games and Cutta three before being returned to their respective junior teams.
The 2013-14 Caps will feature three rookies, and all three will suit up for their first NHL regular season game tonight, although 19-year-old right wing Tom Wilson did play in three Stanley Cup playoff games for the Caps last spring.
Washington will also dress center Michael Latta and 19-year-old blueliner Connor Carrick for tonight’s season opener against the Blackhawks in Chicago.
“They had great camps, they really did,” says Caps coach Adam Oates of his young players. “We were watching them, they played good, they did the things that we’re looking for to help the organization grow. And we decided to keep them.”
Throughout the summer, it was not at all difficult to envision various scenarios that would include Wilson on the opening night roster. The Caps’ first-round (16th overall) choice in the 2012 NHL Draft possesses an NHL body and his skating has improved over the last year.
Carrick was more of a dark horse. The league is not littered with teenaged blueliners, especially those drafted where Carrick was (fifth round, 137th overall in 2012). But Carrick was a revelation at camp, never looking out of place, absorbing knowledge willingly and showing improvement by the day.
“Like we talked about last week,” says Oates of Carrick, “he’s like a junior [Mike Green] or a junior [John Carlson] where he makes great decisions, he can handle the speed and the physicality of the game, had a great camp and has just been improving over the last year on a daily basis.”
Carrick played more than 20 minutes in each of his preseason games, even logging 26:15 in a road game against a Boston team that dressed many of its regular forwards. Strong outings against Philadelphia and Chicago helped seal Carrick’s spot on the roster.
“That came more from within, watching him,” says Oates. “The guys that watch him every day, the scouts – [Steve Richmond], Ross [Mahoney] – and all the guys who watch him have said, ‘This guy is improving on a daily basis.’ He had a good development camp, but I really wasn’t focused on that.
“Yeah, you notice him but then just at the start, some of the minutes he’s played in our games and some of the decisions he has made, he got a second look and a third look and before you know it we’re watching him a lot and seeing how he played. He played the other night, two tough games [against] Philly and Chicago, and he looked good.”
Over the course of their 38 previous NHL seasons, the Caps have had had 22 players play in a total of 28 teenaged seasons (again, bearing in mind the Feb. 1 delineation).
The last Cap to suit up for a teenaged season in Washington was 19-year-old Alexander Semin in 2003-04.
The six Caps to suit up as both 18- and 19-year-olds: Jason Allison, Eric Calder, Bob Carpenter, Yvon Corriveau, Kevin Hatcher and Scott Stevens.
The last time the Caps had as many as two teenagers play in 10 or more games each: Jeff Greenlaw (22) and Corriveau (17) in 1986-87.
The last time the Caps had as many as two teenagers play in at least 70 games each: Stevens (77) and Carpenter (80) in 1982-83. The Caps also had two teens in 1981-82: Gaetan Duchesne (74) and Carpenter (80)
The last time a Caps teenager played as many as 70 games on the blueline: Hatcher with 79 as a 19-year-old in 1985-86. Hatcher is also the last teen at any position to play in more than 52 games in a season for Washington.